Archive for February 2015

The Bullvine – Comfortable making others Uncomfortable

andrew crazy cow cover‘We have made people uncomfortable … and we are comfortable with that’

No one saw it coming.

The Bullvine arrived like a speeding freight train.

It also knocked the media outlets off their axes. It challenged everyone. Its early online stories rampaged through the industry like a bull in a china shop. 

It wrote the calls people thought, but never said.

People were shocked, even horrified … and they starting talking.

And that was exactly what founder Andrew Hunt wanted. Conversation and dialogue. Because this dramatic entry almost three years ago was no fly-by-the-seat-of-your pants’ decision. This was a strategic start to a fresh age of media coverage in the dairy industry.

And as everything starts to shake down and settle in, The Bullvine has rapidly become a power player with purpose and 30,000 readers. Its reach and impact is now unquestioned.

The publication is heading into 2015 with big plans that have yet to be revealed, but in an exclusive interview at World Dairy Expo (WDE), Andrew briefly stopped and allowed a tour of the frenetic and clever brain that is poised to dominate this industry’s media…

Andrew Hunt, 37, is a man of many layers. He comes from a powerful, tight well-connected family within the Canadian industry, who all had something to lose when their son/brother made the decision to initiate the outwardly controversial, online media outlet, The Bullvine.

He appeared — to many — to come from nowhere. The opposite is true.

His parents, Murray and Karen, are not only Master Breeders (Huntsdale Holsteins) but also integral industry leaders at the highest levels in the Canadian Holstein industry.

His brother, Paul, is the Chief Operating Officer for Alta Genetics (based in The Netherlands) and his sister, Heather, is a nutritionist for ANC (Agri-Nutrition Consulting, based in Ohio, USA). All are strong personalities with responsible roles. They are also potentially visible targets for any Bullvine detractors.

Strong connections

However, that is not how this close family works. Andrew has his parents’ and siblings’ support. They often disagree, but they are always in each others’ corners. And they were all sitting ringside together at WDE.

Andrew says, “If you know Paul, you know him as Paul Hunt and respect him for who he is. He’s not Andrew, Murray, Karen or Heather Hunt. If you judge any of my family because of what I do on The Bullvine, then you are discrediting yourself, not my family.

“We are all A-type personalities and we have all charted our own courses. But it doesn’t mean we’re not close. We’re family. We just had to learn to separate our work from our family time, and I have to say that kids have been amazing for changing that Christmas dinner-time conversation!”

Andrew’s mother, Karen Hunt, muses, “The first discussions about The Bullvine were colourful. You might say we were as surprised as anybody. However, with a lifetime of experience with Andrew’s somewhat unorthodox approach to technology and communication, we were ready to trust his instincts.”

Dad Murray adds, “And there was only two weeks between the time Andrew first ran the idea of The Bullvine up the flag poll, and the day the first article went up on February 24, 2012.”

Murray and Karen are the only additional official team members working for The Bullvine today, although staff from his two other companies play roles when they’re needed.

Murray says, “We both love it!  Every day brings new ideas, challenges and contacts. It has taken the discussions that we’ve always had around our kitchen table and expanded them more than a little … to around the world.”

Driven back to dairy

Andrew went to the University of Guelph in their Bachelor of Commerce, Agricultural Business and Management programme, and earned his stripes on a six-figure income in the Fortune 500 consulting services world.

He was always a ballsy, driven and restless personality.

So it did not surprise the people who knew him well when he left the security of his former employment with the full support of his new wife, Dr Zosia Hunt (who was still a student then). They also had a two-year-old and a newborn child at the time.

He established his own marketing agency from the ground up, Inbound Sales Network (which would also later include Inbound Accelerator, for tech start-ups). Today it has over 100 team members. The company has been incredibly successful and, for many, that would have been plenty.

Not for Andrew.

“I love the dairy industry. That’s why I left and came back. It’s a drug that I’m hooked on. And it’s what I’m most excited and passionate about,” he says.

The Bullvine is the result of Andrew’s ongoing passion to work within the dairy industry, blended with a skill set and history that brings new dynamics to a sometimes-predictable news medium.

Real and edgy

He did not launch The Bullvine to make money. He launched it to create energy and a strong message for the industry.

The opening salvo on The Bullvine’s webpage remains as a reminder that things were going to be shaken up:

“Let’s start with what we are not. We’re not just an event reporting magazine. We’re not a billboard or promoter of whoever will pay us the most money. We are something different, something real.”

Andrew says, “When we first looked at the publications in the marketplace, we knew we were up against well-established, traditional family-around-the table reads. If we did the same thing, we were never going to be successful. We had to use the power of community and conversation to really drive our growth.

“We also needed to be edgier — especially in the first year. We have made people uncomfortable, and we’re comfortable with that. Over time, some would say we have softened our stance. But I think the industry has also adjusted and there is greater acceptance of what we do. I think the industry has come to us somewhat.”

Shock and relief

There was no question that the opening stories shocked some. Others were relieved someone had finally put a voice to what they were thinking.

In the beginning, 2000 people read The Bullvine’s email and online messages a day.

Today, it reaches that number within an hour of an article being posted. In a week, 30,000 dairy people are reading what The Bullvine shares. In any given day it has between 7000 and 10,000 visitors. It’s a bustling outlet that publishes five feature articles a week and 10 news releases daily on anything from show time and profiles, to genomics, sire breakdowns, politics, innovation and education.

Andrew says it’s not so much the shock value that drives him, as the desire for transparency.

“Yes, we wanted to get people’s attention and knock people off their centre and be as far from the norm as we could be. But we have always been about clarity and transparency. In my industry, those are your staples. In the dairy industry everyone has been too worried about being friends with everyone else. It is a small community, so there is pressure to not offend anyone.

“But because of our monetisation strategy, I don’t depend on income from the typical sources, so I can say what I want to say and take it for what it is. What I don’t think a lot of people understand is that because we had planned our strategy for the first three years, we didn’t take the initial feedback personally.

“We knew it would be coming. The interesting thing for us was because we weren’t connected to the industry as a financial driver, it gave us the freedom to express ourselves honestly.”

Honesty achieves

And honest they have been.

They have called out many people from many parts of the industry, and entertained stories few dare to write. They have tackled taboo topics such as Photoshop and show previews.

The Photoshop editorial prompted Andrew to introduce the Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct, designed to make photographers, AI centres, breeders and graphic designers accountable for any changes to cattle photographs.

“I discovered many new issues with current photography practices. The biggest one is just plain old laziness,” Andrew says. “They are too lazy to do it right. ‘Photoshop saved careers’, they told me. I say, ‘Photoshop has made many photographers lazy.’”

Advertising pressure

Yes, today The Bullvine carries advertising. But that has not changed who or what they write about.

“I’ve always written what I’ve wanted to write. There’s been some people we’ve written about that most would argue that we shouldn’t have because of their backgrounds and/or industry perception.

“But if I think they are interesting and I’d like to know more about them, then we’re going to write about it. And if I’m the only person that reads it, cool. We have done those stories. But I say to the people who challenge me on that, that the decision’s on me since I’m paying for it. So I guess I can have that opinion. If they don’t like it, they don’t have to read it.”

God or data

Andrew has also called opposing media outlets to account for making claims on readership. The most notable and recent being readership demographics.

“You need data to back what you say with regard to that. Here’s my analysis: in God we trust, everyone else better bring data.

“When you have a number of Facebook followers from India and Pakistan — that have an average herd size of three cows — those readers are not showing cattle or selling genetics. The top four cities that register on The Bullvine are Quebec, Madison, Toronto and Montreal. We’re Canadian. It’s self-explanatory who has the most useful readers.”

Hefty research into ringside photography

One of the strongest evolutions of The Bullvine has been the initiation of ringside online show coverage and extensive ring photography.

“When we started I wasn’t going to do it because everyone else was,” Andrew says. “I’d never done photography, but soon realised that I needed photographs, and, being a techno guy, I thought, ‘let’s rock’ n’ roll’.

“I was a huge fan of Han Hopman [Holstein International photographer] and I used my technical skills to study his photos and assess his camera settings. I have also spent close to $50,000 on camera equipment since we started, and received training from photographers outside the industry and drove everywhere in North America to get better. I also bored my kids senseless picturing them. But we do have some insane family memories because of it.

“I still think Han is the best composition photographer there is in the world and he does an amazing job of telling a story with a photograph. This journey for me has turned out to be very rewarding and helped the growth of the company.”

It has also added to the workload, because, while many outlets have several staff ringside, Andrew is mostly either on his own or accompanied by his parents as back-up. He uses his technical skills to overcome running a smaller team, and makes it look more effortless than it probably is.

Coffee-table book + picturing for free

Picturing led Andrew to producing a coffee-table book of photographs post WDE and he has many showman ask for photographs for their marketing campaigns. It is something he does for free.

“They work so hard to get those animals out there, how can I have the right to charge them and reap the benefit of ‘snapping a photo’ of a cow that looks amazing?

“It’s an honour to have that opportunity and that’s why I put every photograph on Facebook. All I ask of the breeders and owners of the cows I picture is that they don’t remove my logo. Other than that, they can go nuts with them.”

Last year, over 14 photographs taken by The Bullvine were used for industry magazine covers.

Next steps: education and mentoring

Taking on the photography pushed Andrew to embrace the next step — something he likes to do.

“If you stay in your comfort zone, you are not progressing and if you don’t challenge yourself every day by either improving your strengths or working on your weaknesses, then you’re not developing as a person. The day that happens, I will quit.”

The business has evolved from its base as a genetics, show and genomic-based commentary, through to also being an educational tool. It now has as much focus on dairy industry issues as it does on the subjects it began with — genetics and shows.

The Bullvine recently initiated The Milk House — the World Wide Dairy Breeding and Dairy Genetics Group on Facebook. It is a closed chat room for producers from all around the world to share ideas. Already, all manner of things have been covered, connecting the industry in a new way at the grassroots level. There are more than 2000 posts a week.

Andrew has also established a network where dairymen can be part of conference calls with a “board of advisors”. Andrew is not involved, other than to facilitate. It is purely actioned to help dairy farmers. “The quality of discussion on these calls is very informative and helps us understand our industry better and how we can better serve it.”

It’s learning from others that first got Andrew started in the dairy marketing industry.

“When I was in university, I was approached by Albert Cormier and Dave Eastman to do the marketing for their soon-to-be-released sire Champion and their new company GenerVations.  Albert is legendary for his ability to market dairy cattle and David’s one of the smartest guys in the industry and at the forefront of breeding circles.” Andrew says they were a “great breeding ground for what he has become”.

Running a responsible line

Day to day, The Bullvine is growing and Andrew Hunt is growing with it — including his presence in the dairy industry.

With that comes greater responsibility — and that’s something he does not take for granted.

Of his direct approach, Andrew says, “I am more apt to run you over than stab you in the back.”

But helping the industry share ideas and progress is what drives him and makes him happy.

“I’m the luckiest man there is in the world,” he says. “I have a wife who ‘gets me’, who supports me and who is out of my league. She is the biggest stabilising factor in my life outside of my parents, who taught me to always believe in myself.

“When you are doing what you love and you can pay your bills, what else is there? The Bullvine can go on forever if I still have passion for it. How do you get bored with something that at your core is who you believe you are?”

This article first appear in the December 2014-February 2015 Edition of Crazy Cow in Print.  Click here to check out there Facebook group and watch for their new website soon.

The Bullvine is Dead!

Today, a single email can launch a worldwide movement. Three years ago today, a single email started what would become the greatest social change movement in the dairy industry. (Read more: Twice the Bull – Half the S**T)  However, it’s all going to fail without your support. Let us explain.

For years, the media has been censored.  What you read and what you heard and the opinions expressed were those that the powers that be wanted you to hear.  Magazines only published viewpoints that they knew would be popular with advertisers because that is how they made their money.   That model had to be broken, and it took more than just technology to change the world as we know it.


In 2012, the Turkish military jets had bombed and killed 34 Kurdish smugglers near the border region and Turkish media completely censored that news. Editors sat in their newsrooms and waited for the government to tell them what to do. One frustrated journalist could not take this anymore. He purchased his own plane ticket and went to the village where it had occurred.  He was confronted by this scene: a line of coffins coming down a hill and relatives wailing. He felt   overwhelmed.. He didn’t know what to do, so he took out his phone, like any one of us might, and snapped that picture and tweeted it out.  Voila! That picture went viral and broke the censorship and forced mass media to cover the story.

These same feelings are the feelings we here at the Bullvine felt when watching what was happening to the dairy industry.  We could see the media and the industry censoring what information was being shared with producers from around the world.  Scared to share an opinion that was contrary to that of the companies that had the power, the industry was heading down a slippery slope.  We felt the need to say something.  We didn’t like feeling overwhelmed. So we started the Bullvine.

However, sometimes starting the conversation or sharing a different opinion is not enough.  Take what occurred in Turkey in 2012.  A year later, Turkey’s Gezi protests began. It started as a protest about a park being razed but became an anti-authoritarian protest. It wasn’t surprising that the media also censored it, but it got a little ridiculous at times. hings were very intense. At the same time that  CNN International was broadcasting live from Istanbul, CNN Turkey was airing a documentary on penguins. Now, I love penguin documentaries but that wasn’t the news of the day. An angry viewer put his two screens together and snapped that picture, and that one too went viral, and since then, people call Turkish media the penguin media.


We find this same level of censorship, either intentional or not, still exists in the dairy industry.  Most publications are so afraid to offend the companies that have the power or the money that they are allowing them to choke out those same breeder-producers they claim to serve. Instead of standing up for those that they claim are members of the community, they sit back and watch as the industry slowly dies.   They prefer to post pretty pictures of baby calves or young kids, choosing to hide their heads in the sand like CNN Turkey did, instead of analyzing the actual news of the day.

Nowadays, technology like Facebook, Twitter, and etcetera allow people from around the world to connect on any topic they choose.  We see it all the time in chat forums such as The MilkHouse, where breeders express their concerns about actual issues that all breeders face.  The challenge is, for the most part, it’s just talk.  It’s a few breeders who are expressing their concerns while others lurk in the background afraid of repercussions.

A great example of this is when one breeder expressed their concerns over a sire of theirs failing health tests, after initially passing them upon entering an AI unit. The level of discussion went insane.  Breeders and producers from around the world were expressing their support and outrage about how this AI unit had conducted themselves. The AI unit representative had even called the breeder threatening them for their actions.  The problem is nothing changed.

Sure social media helped flame this fire to proportions never before seen in the dairy industry.  However, nothing changed.  Everyone eventually moved on.  No one has purchased less semen from this AI company as a result of their actions and breeders still lease their sires to this AI company.  So nothing has really changed other than the megaphone has gotten louder.

While we here at the Bullvine certainly see the need to raise and give a megaphone to the issues that face breeders here today, it is going to take more than just a louder voice to bring about real change.  It’s going to take all members of the community to unite and take action.

The dairy breeding industry is on the edge of extinction as we know it.  AI companies and other genetic organizations are using the superior technological and capital power they possess to choke out the dairy breeding industry as we know it.  Unfortunately, dairy breeders are sitting back and watching this happen.  They are letting these companies choke out their future.  Sure a few voices on social media are shouting, “Hell no!”  But no one is taking action.

The companies that are making these decisions that best serve their own interests see that, despite all the discontent that is being expressed through social media, no one is changing their buying habits.  It was much the same when we first took on the touchy subject of AI units owning females. Sure everyone was upset about the issue but no one took action.  Now these organizations own the majority of the top index animals in the world and have more than enough females to produce their own next generation of sires, without having to purchase bulls from breeders at all. Breeders have become like that  little dog with a big bark that has no bite. There is no incentive, need or concern, on the part of the AI companies, to change.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

In the past, when dairy producers had a problem, the only way they could be heard was to join committees and get on boards in order to have their voice heard.  In contrast, in today’s day and age, you can simply take to social media and express your opinion.  The problem is that it’s too easy.  It’s too easy to get it off your chest and then move on.  This method leads to no sustainable change being made.  So, the next time you are so pissed off about something in the dairy industry or the next time you are so concerned about the future of the breeding industry, don’t just take the easy route and put up an angry post   on Facebook.  Ask yourself what sustainable action you are taking to bring about change?  For us here at the Bullvine, that is the motivation that first got us started three years ago today. That is the motivation that we use daily to do what we do. However, without you taking action it all dies on the vine – The Bullvine.


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MILK QUALITY: When You Are Out of Quality, You Are Out of Business!

The idea of opening a discussion on milk quality almost seems redundant.  After all, everybody knows the how-to processes of producing milk.  Producing quality milk isn’t rocket science.  No it isn’t.  But are we letting the familiar process lower the benchmark of the product we are producing?  Furthermore, from the cow to the container is everyone along that production line committed to the highest level of quality? Should they be? Are we able to prove it?  Do we want to?

What Does Quality Milk Mean?

Sometimes we need to start with the questions. When processors receive milk are they limited by the level of quality?  Are there products they can’t make because the quality isn’t high enough?  Are they – under pressure from retail stores and consumers – to prove that the highest standards of quality have been met?  How much more is it worth to the processor?  Is it worth it to the dairy producer? When we try to answer the questions, we find there isn’t one simple answer.  Let’s look at 8 Quality checkpoints that you may or may not be using.

1 – Quality Milk Pays for Itself

Admittedly, the quality of milk produced on your farm directly impacts your profits. But, before we even begin to look at expenses and profits of quality milk, we need to put our accounting pencils to work on the costs we are paying if our milking herd is fighting a losing battle against diseases. At the University of Wisconsin researchers addressed this problem and, along with advice on how to calculate individual farm data, they reported. “The association between herd bulk tank SCC and production losses was recently compared between herds with low SCC (<200,000/ml), herds with medium SCC (200,000-399,999) and herds with high SCC (>400,000/ml). The overall production loss for the average US dairy farm was estimated at $110/cow annually.” The researchers sum up “Lost premium opportunities, decreased milk production and discarded pails of milk are only a partial accounting of the total actual cost of mastitis on most dairy farms. Mastitis causes additional losses due to death, culling, decreased genetic gain and reductions in reproductive efficiency.” The National Mastitis Council sets the benchmark even higher placing the average cost of a case of mastitis at $184.

2 – Quality Udder Care Makes Quality Milk

Udder and teat end health is critical when it comes to avoiding instances of infection in your herd. Using a five- point scoring system can help to analyze the condition of teat ends, as well as ensuring that the bacteria-blocking keratin plug is able to fulfill its responsibilities.  Teat ends should maintain a smooth structure, avoiding any lesions or fraying, as these rough surfaces can more easily allow bacteria to enter the gland. Reports in the Journal of Dairy Science by D. M. Galton demonstrated a direct relationship between premilking hygiene procedures and both bacteria counts in milk and incidence of clinical mastitis. Numerous studies continue to prove that specific milking procedures such as predipping and forestripping are beneficial to improve milk quality. As well, milking equipment should be serviced routinely, as equipment not performing properly can cause teat end problems.

3 ­- Quality Routines Every Time

The daily parlor routine can be very often overlooked. Getting cows milked two to three times a day is a big job on its own. Ironically, some of the smallest things can make a world of difference.  Wearing gloves, making sure there is adequate predip coverage, and keeping in mind the contact time of predip before it is wiped off can have a significant impact.  Are all employees well trained and committed to following the set standards and completing them properly? Milking clean, dry, teats, is the priority.  In 1998 Smith and Armstrong divided premilking hygiene into three groups: none, minimal and full. They reported: “Herds using full preparation averaged 9 lbs. of milk per cow more than those using minimal udder preparation. They theorized the difference could be explained by improved milk let down since they observed partial let down followed by no milk flow through machine clusters for one to one and a half minutes before a second milk let down occurred when minimal teat preparation was used.”

4 – Quality is Supported by Exceptional Biosecurity

When purchasing cattle make sure proper screening takes place before these new animals join your herd. Access milk culture and production records for any information that could flag a potential problem. Quarantine incoming animals. Take steps to minimize instances of introducing a new infection to your herd.

5 – Quality Milk Starts with Quality Equipment Management

Continuous improvements and modifications of milking equipment, support quality milk production.  Equipment should never be taken for granted.

  • Always check the vacuum level at the start of each milking.
  • Test your milking machine annually and change liners at 2000 milkings;
  • Monitor bulk tank SCC closely and take prompt action to stop spread of infection.
  • Some systems monitor cows for udder health. Be sure to query the system every day regarding problem cows.

Regularly maintain all milking equipment to the highest standards.

6 – Quality Handling/Processes and Procedures

  • One milker performing the entire milking routine on a group of cows is considered the most consistent for performance and speed.
  • Always wear clean gloves when milking. Bare hands harbour up to 98% more bacteria than gloved hands. Clean gloves periodically during each milking with warm water and sanitizer.
  • Always apply clusters to clean and dry teats. Wash dirty teats and always dry with an individual paper towel.
  • A drying towel removes the most bacteria from the teat and provides extra stimulation.
  • The secret to successful drying is to make sure the teat end is wiped dry.
  • Use a clean or new filter sock before each milking.
  • Check the filter sock for clots after every milking.
  • Dry off cows abruptly – do not milk once a day.

Proper procedures provide pay-off, but only if they are done properly every time!  Staff training takes time but is absolutely necessary.  The approved milking routine should be given to every employee and posted in the parlor. Supervision and incentives will pay off.

7- Quality Means Mastitis Prevention

The most common threat to milk quality is that of mastitis. Procedures to identify sub-clinical mastitis and proper handling of identified cases is a priority.

  • Forestripping all cows is the most effective way of identifying clinical cases early. It may appear time consuming, but it actually encourages faster milking, through natural oxytocin let-down.
  • Culture milk samples. Early identification of the bacterial challenged in the herd can help with treatment choice.
  • Treat appropriately, discussing with your vet the herd history, culture results and cow history. Ensure that the appropriate withdrawal period is observed and treated cows are well marked and easy identifiable so their milk can be segregated from the bulk tank.
  •  Teat-dipping all cows immediately after every milking is the single best thing you can do to prevent new infections.
  • Ensure all teat area is well covered with teat disinfectant.

Less Mastitis = More Profit

It isn’t surprising that there is a direct correlation between managing mastitis and improving your financial bottom line.  Lower SCC means better milk quality and increased production. By decreasing the risk of infection you’ll spend less time and money on treating mastitis. You will keep your herd profitable by not having to cull as many good producers due to mastitis.

8- Quality Can Mean Significant Returns!

Every farm is different and will vary to some degree based on the variables involved. It is well worth it to do an economic analysis based on your own data.  Identify and benchmark areas for improvement.  Don’t overlook calculations regarding the annual cost of mastitis on your farm.

Looking outside of our own familiar situation can often help in providing perspective. Dairymen in New Zealand have taken quality to the forefront and consultants and trainers there project how significant it can be to their bottom line. “By halving your Somatic Cell Count (SCC) you will gain, on average, a 1.8% increase in milk production. If your herd is New Zealand’s average size of 350 cows and you halve your SCC from 300,000 to 150,000, you will produce an extra 2110kg of milk solids per year. “At last year’s milk price payout (2014) of $7.50, that’s an extra $15,750 earned.”


Are you managing all eight of these variables?  If not, why not? Investing money, time, training and equipment with the goal of improving milk quality, is the best investment you can make.  “Quality Milk is Not Expensive.  It’s Priceless!”


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Question and Answers with TAG & Sexing Technologies – The Story Behind the Deal

TAG by ST-2000

Juan Moreno (Co-CEO Sexing Technologies), Maurice Rosenstein (Co-CEO Sexing Technologies), Natalia Rodrigues (Vice-President TAG), Patrice Simard (President TAG)


More and more over recent years we have seen smaller A.I. companies being purchased by larger genetic organizations.  Most recently the world’s fastest growing dairy genetics company, Trans America Genetics (TAG), has been acquired by Sexing Technologies (ST) the world leader in sex-sorted semen.  (Read more: TAG Acquired by Sexing Technologies) We sat down with the executives of both these organizations to understand the artistry of this deal.

Patrice Simard (President TAG) and wife Natalia Rodrigues (Vice President TAG)

Patrice Simard (President TAG) and wife Natalia Rodrigues (Vice President TAG)

Patrice Simard, President Trans America Genetics

TBV: How did this deal come about?

P.S.: It came about as the result of some discussion we have had over the years.  We have known Juan Moreno for quite some time now, even before we launched TAG.  We have always been watching and inquiring about what Sexing Technologies has been doing. We always valued Juan as  person, as a visionary, for the great work he has been doing, and what he brings to this industry.  One discussion leading to another, we started to realize that there were certain synergies between TAG and ST that were very complimentary to one another, and that triggered some deeper discussions.

TBV: How does this affect the TAG brand?

P.S.: It is a mutual feeling that the brand and the name we have been able to develop here at TAG is partly what triggered ST’s interest in acquiring TAG. ST has some very high-quality products, high gTPI and gLPI genomic sires that are comparable, if not better, to the kind of products the TAG brand has been associated with. The plan is to maintain the name, with the addition of by ST at the end, TAG by ST. The name TAG has been well established in many markets and offers a premium brand to the ST offerings. Sexed semen has a broad range of marketplaces, but certainly is prevalent in the premium high index market where TAG has been able to ascertain its brand.

TBV: What changes can people expect as a result of this deal?

P.S.: As a result of this deal breeders can expect a much bigger presence of both companies. TAG has done substantially well for the resources that were available.  This arrangement enhances the reach and resources accessible to further build the organization.  The philosophy and the ideology behind the selection and the promotion of sires of the two companies are very similar.  As a result, there should not be any change in direction, but rather an acceleration of the process. This deal make it possible to do even more of what we have already started. In Canada, that means that we now have access to the entire offering of programs, genetics, and sires from both TAG and ST. Obviously this gives TAG an edge and a much larger portfolio to offer our breeders.

TBV: What changes will there be for current staff?

P.S.: The way the deal was structured permitted us to keep all our team into place. The current staff will keep on driving forward. The whole TAG team is excited and enthusiastic about the possibilities ahead. Through the worldwide TAG network, everyone is very excited by this opportunity.

TBV: What changes will there be for distributors?

P.S.: Nothing changes for our worldwide distribution network.  The TAG channels that are in place will continue to grow and develop. Of course with this deal there is the opportunity to improve and expand some of these channels. Certainly in the mid and long term there will be a desire to significantly increase TAG’s reach in new markets, as well as improve on markets where there are some weaknesses. For sure the TAG channels and networks have done very well for the organization.  They are almost entirely exclusive to TAG, so now the potential to move a much broader product offering is very exciting for the distributors as well. We expect this greater breadth of product offering to help grow the TAG distribution network.

TBV: Will there continue be TAG sires being sampled?

P.S.: There are still many details that need to be looked at under a microscope in order to make decisions for the long term. As of now, we need to go through a transition period, optimizing logistics, integrating inventories, discussing different types of bulls and their positioning in various markets.  Also, there is a need to look at the different philosophies, a mix of cultures and see how TAG can integrate into the ST network.  However, one thing for sure there is a lot of great genetics, so it’s never an issue to put an exceptional product offering out in the marketplace.   Now the how to and the branding them, and those decisions we still have a lot of work to do to put a comprehensive strategy together.

TBV: What reaction to expect for TAG shareholders?

PS: Well, over the last few months, little details of the ongoing negotiations with ST made it back to different partners, and they have inquired Natalia and I about it. Their reaction has been very positive. They have seen the company they helped to start, grow up before their eyes.  Just like a zealous mother looks after her growing child, our partners have been there, supporting us through each step in this maturation process. Most of them have been able to get some financial return through different incentives and programs.  Our semen discount program will remain for them, and we are very proud to continue this.  We expect them to be pleased with the many great TAG accomplishments.  And we certainly hope they will take advantage of their preferred pricing to acquire excellent conventional and sexed semen products to increase their herds’ profitability trough genetics!

(Read more at The TAG GAME PLAN – 5 Years from “Startup” to “Game ON!”)


Juan Moreno, Co-CEO of Sexing Technologies

Juan Moreno, Co-CEO of Sexing Technologies

TBV: What first caught your attention about TAG?

JM: I have been following TAG since it started.  I think the concept was a very very good concept.  They made tremendous strides in the marketplace in branding and image and also did a very good job with sourcing bulls.  So they had a good lineup of bulls with a strong brand.   On top of that they had some great people working with them.  Ultimately is always about the people.

TBV: How did this deal come about?

JM: Good questions, well I guess you hear through the rumor mill about changes going on at all different organizations and especially in the marketplace that affect all companies, and we saw an opportunity based on these market changes.  I have known Patrice for over 7 years, so we started some conversations, first kind of just scratching the surface and jokingly but then over time those conversations slowly progress and you begin to talk more and more.  You never know if it is possible to find a deal that works well for everyone and it can take a long time to reach that point.

TBV: How does this deal benefit Sexing Technologies?

JM: I think it all about trying to make sexed semen available from high genetic value sires in the hands of dairy farmers. TAG had certainly built a network of people who were achieving just that. In addition, there is the ability to greater progeny test sires through the system that TAG had developed was very interesting and will benefit the growth of Sexing Technologies.   The lineup of young sires that they have was very impressive, with many top genomic sires.  And the staff is young and energetic and a great group of people that see the changes that are occurring in the industry and have a lot of good ideas but have not had the resources to always execute on them, that now they will have that opportunity.

TBV: What will the structure be going forward?

JM: TAG will continue to operate pretty much the way it has operated in the past.  I think there are some things that we can add to TAG, most notably sexed semen in their lineup.  I addition I think there are certain things that TAG can add to ST, but for the most part it will remain as it has been.

TBV: How will this affect your international distribution?

JM: The network that TAG has built will remain intact.  TAG will continue to service their clients the same way they have in the past. If anything now they will have an even great product offering to provide their customers.  The addition of sexed semen and more sires offers their clients worldwide even more to get excited about.

TBV: What changes can breeders expect as a result of this deal?

JM: The biggest changes breeders can expect is the addition of sexed semen.  TAG did not have sexed semen in their pipeline in the past, so that is the most significant change that breeders can expect.  The number two change that most breeders can expect to see is that there will be a greater selection of sires available.

TBV: With many changes recently and ST continuing to grow, can we expect more changes coming soon?

JM: Our primary focus is on the technology side and the ongoing improvement of the technology. So from that aspect you can expect to see continued changes.  Our genetics part is not large, we are one of the smallest bull studs in the marketplace, so we are not large in respect to the genetic side of things.  The biggest changes to come are in the continued improvements in the technology, in both sexed semen and conventional semen. We are now starting to dedicate many resources to conventional semen improvements as well.

(Read more at: SEXING TECHNOLOGIES: Gender Vendors in a Changing Marketplace)

The Bullvine Bottom Line

There is certainly no question that the dairy genetics industry is going through it greatest changes in history.  Genomic, IVF, and sexed semen have certainly been major game changers.  With these technologies has come changes in how companies operate.  As the marketplace has changes, companies have had to react.  In the acquisition of TAG, Sexing Technologies continues to be a leader in this changing market.  Always looking for ways to move forward ST has been driving change instead of reacting to the action of others. This deal certainly demonstrates that those with technological differentiation are certainly going to be in the driver’s seat going forward.


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VIDEO: Which Dairy Breed is the Most Profitable? Economic Analysis from the 2015 Canadian Dairy Xpo

It’s an highly debated question amongst most dairy breeders — which is the best dairy breed?  The answer is not a simple A or B and is more likely to be a qualified “it depends.”  Professor Elliott Currie talks about the economic analysis of the different dairy breeds at the 2015 Canadian Dairy Xpo. The research does point to a most profitable breed, and Currie presented his findings at this year’s Canadian Dairy Xpo.

From investment in equipment, to average butterfat production, to vet bills and breeding costs, Currie says that the “winning” breed came out ahead by only 0.9%, measured as a return on investment (the money you get to keep).

So which was the winning breed? Watch the video to find out, and to hear about the development of a spreadsheet that will soon be available for farmers to run their own numbers, allowing them to see what mix of cow breeds will result in the best return on investment for their farm. (Read more: HOLSTEIN VS. JERSEY: WHICH BREED IS MORE PROFITABLE?JERSEY VS. HOLSTEIN – THE DEBATE CONTINUES and HOLSTEIN VS. JERSEY – WHAT COLOR OF DAIRY BREED IS THE REAL MONEY MAKER?)




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Dairy Pharmacology – When Good Drugs Go Bad

When the headlines scream that yet another drug used by agriculture is deadly …. I must admit that I only continue to read until I discover whether or not it affects my particular herd, family or lifestyle.  If not.  I let it go.  However, I must also admit, that this “what’s in it for me?” attitude hasn’t provided a huge record of success in herd health or personal health. It seems that we always find out the real truth too late. And whose fault is that?

Who is Accountable?  Who is Responsible?

Part of the problem is that we are always looking for the information that supports our current status quo. We don’t accept responsibility for managing our own health and cross our fingers that our comfortable routine won’t cause actual harm. However, in my case, there isn’t a lot of scientifically documented evidence that says that copious amounts of coffee, no exercise and daily cheats on the diet are going to add up to good health. Nevertheless, I remain optimistic…at least until after receiving bad news in the doctor’s office. Then, like many, I hope for the pill that will take away the problem and unpleasant responsibility that’s on my shoulders.  If one pill works, that’s marvelous!  If not, I will take two and, once again, hope for the best!

SO What’s the Bad News in the Barn?

It’s a similar scenario in the barn.  Before we invest in changes in our setup, systems or animal health management, we look for the drug that will make it “easy”.  Of course there are protocols and procedures to follow. But even that doesn’t ensure 100% compliance, because each situation is different and there can always be human error. If something works!  Let’s use more of it!!

Mastitis is a Big Problem.  Ceftiofur is a Powerful Answer.

Every now and then a drug comes along that seems to hold all the answers. The antibiotic ceftiofur, which was introduced in 1989, is one of those. It is strong.  It has a short withdrawal time.  These two features add up to considerable savings for dairy farmers.  For some, it means keeping a cow milking longer – and thus preserving her value at the slaughter stage, regardless of whether or not this is beyond the prescribed uses of the antibiotic.

Mastitis is a costly problem. It doesn’t respond quickly to treatment, thus causing additional costs in milk production, vet bills, labor and cow health. Any treatment is costly. And, to date, something 100% effective has not been found. 

In practice, administering any antibiotic for several consecutive days is a practice that is used to treat many types of infections. Until recently no antibiotic had been approved and labeled for use beyond three consecutive days. Ceftiofur hydrochloride was given FDA approval for infusing up to eight consecutive days for treating clinical mastitis caused by coagulase negative staphylococci (CNS), Streptoccus. dysgalactiae, and E. coli.

In 2004, Dr. Steve Oliver and his colleagues at the University of Tennessee studied the effectiveness of the antibiotic in three research herds and reported their results in the Journal of Dairy Science. “Ceftiofur proved to be the most effective when it was administered for 8-days, with an overall infection cure rate from all types of pathogens of about 66%. Cure rates for the 5 and 2-day administration times were reduced to about 54% and 39%, respectively. The non-treatment group had an 11% spontaneous cure rate. While ceftiofur is not labeled for treating Staph. aureus infections, the researchers found that the cure rates of infections caused by Staph. aureus were 36% for the 8-day treatment group, but only 17% for 5-day, 7% for 2-day, and 0% for the no treatment groups.”

But Now The Ceftiofur Bad News! Ceftiofur could spawn antibiotic-resistant bacteria

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration cautioned in 2012 that ceftiofur could pose a “high public health risk,” The warning is the FDA’s strongest kind.  Twenty three years after approval this warning is issued and we immediately ask, “If this is true, why didn’t we know? Why wasn’t I told? The answer of course, “We didn’t know, and I wasn’t told, because it can take 10 or 20 years or longer for such a problem to appear.” Unfortunately the bad news is double-barrelled in the implications for dairy. First of all ceftiofur is very strong. Secondly, it is frequently used improperly.

These two issues cause a third problem and that is raising serious concerns, “The threat that Ceftiofur could pose to public health.” This particular drug belongs to a class of antibiotics considered critically important in human medicine. The concern is that ceftiofur in animals could spawn antibiotic-resistant bacteria, superbugs that can infect people and defeat conventional medical treatment, even when the drug is used as directed.

The stakes are especially high because the drug is part of a crucial class of antibiotics called cephalosporins. The class includes ceftriaxone, a drug that’s vital to treating pneumonia, meningitis and salmonella infections in children, according to the FDA. The use of one type of cephalosporin can compromise the effectiveness of others in the same class.

“There is a very clear link between ceftiofur use and ceftriaxone resistance,” said Paul Fey, a professor of microbiology at University of Nebraska Medical Center. “We know that ceftiofur-resistant salmonella are clearly ceftriaxone-resistant.”

Are We Getting ALL the Facts?

Question: Are Dairy cows to blame?

Answer: Some 32.5 million head of cattle were slaughtered in 2013, of which about 3.2 million were dairy cows.

Question: Is there full disclosure of all the numbers?

Answer:  The residues reported by Reuters represent only one part of USDA’s inspection program and come from the sampling of suspect animals that appear sick or ill as they come in for slaughter.

Question:  Are the numbers being selectively reported by both sides?

Answer: Perhaps. The Reuters news states, “Violations involving high levels of ceftiofur in meat rose by 323 percent between 2008 and 2013 – from 98 violations to 415. (of the 33 million slaughtered?) Last year alone, more than a quarter of all 1,634 residue violations were for ceftiofur – more than four times its share of violations in 2008, the analysis shows. Violations involving ceftiofur have continued at a similar rate during the first half of 2014.”

Roger Saltman, Group Director, Cattle and Equine Technical Services at Zoetis Inc., doesn’t dispute those numbers. But he says the residues reported by Reuters represent only one part of USDA’s inspection program. “The numbers Reuters reports comes from the sampling of suspect animals that appear sick or ill as they come in for slaughter. Reuters did not report residues from USDA’s statistical sampling program, which identified only three antibiotic positive animals from healthy animals during the first six months of 2014. And none of those positives were for ceftiofur.”

Nevertheless, Antibiotic Residues in Meat Are Still a Concern

Who is responsible? The producer of the product.  The user.  The regulators.  The dairy farmer.  While fingers can be pointed at each one, it’s probably most realistic to say that anyone connected with ceftiofur use needs to step up to the responsibility plate.  False or misleading advertising is the start.  Then, ceftiofur should not be used for unethical prolonging of a cows life merely to get her off the farm and recoup some money.   Of course, the administering of Ceftiofur must be for the right reasons and under the right usage. Regulators need to be more conscientious.  While there is huge expense to testing, there is enough information and scenarios to target where and when better information, and protocols need to be identified.  Stronger fines might also act as a deterrent. With regards to Ceftiofur, the Reuters report does suggest USDA inspectors are doing a good job of scrutinizing suspect cows. The odds of finding a residue by marketing questionable animals—resulting in a condemned, valueless carcass–go up substantially.

Recognize the Risks

Every drug has risks.  As with most things, whether it’s good or bad depends on the circumstances. For instance take aspirin. — if you have a bleeding ulcer, it’s a bad idea. If you have a headache, or are taking a low dose on the advice of a physician for cardiovascular health, it may well be a good idea. Taking the whole bottle at once is bad in any case.

This may be the case behind the Reuters report that. “Time is money for a farmer with a gravely ill cow on his hands. Interviews with farmers, veterinarians and field researchers, and a review of FDA warning letters, show ceftiofur has been administered to animals by farmers eager to keep a sick animal alive long enough to sell it.”

Act on the Information – Antibiotic Residues in Meat Are Still a Concern.

Meat withhold times are four days for Excenel RTU and Naxcel, and 13 days for Excede. When given in the muscle or subcutaneously, ceftiofur does not transfer into milk and thus there is no milk withhold. Dairies can’t lay all the blame at the feet of the manufacturer of the drug. Saltman urges dairy farmers to strictly follow drug treatment protocols and withhold time. “Before putting her on the truck, make sure you know what you’ve treated her with and that she has completed the full withdrawal time,” he says. “And if she still appears sick, don’t market her.” It’s unknown if extremely sick animals might metabolize antibiotics differently. “The dairy farmer should ask, ‘Would I put her on my own table?’” says Saltman.  “If the animal is sick, the answer is no” says Saltman. “The animal should not be marketed until she’s healthy. And if she doesn’t recover, she should be humanely euthanized on the farm”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

When it comes to the Bottom Line, there is no Bottom Line. It’s one thing if you misuse a drug through lack of information or understanding.  It’s another thing entirely if you make choices for personal gain or unethical reasons. That goes below a bottom line to completely unethical. Regardless of who is the “most” right or wrong, if you are anywhere on the spectrum between production to consumption, you must share the responsibility. And the appropriate ACTION!


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14° EUROPEAN OPEN HOLSTEIN SHOW – Montichiari 2015

LOCATION: Montichiari, IT
JUDGE: Donald Dubois, QC

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Grand Champion of The European Open Holstein Show 2015
Gerboise (Atwood)
Agr. Al.Be.Ro

Reserve Grand Champion of The European Open Holstein Show 2015
Jomagro Goldwyn Jasmin (Goldwyn)
Errera Holsteins, Agr. Al.Be.Ro, L. M.e.dal Farm 

Hon. Mention Grand Champion of The European Open Holstein Show 2015
Posozaa Goldwyn Sonia (Goldwyn)
All. Beltramino, Bag 2, Agr. Al.Be.Ro, L. Bach & Sarreri

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Intermediate Champion of The European Open Holstein Show 2015
Gerboise (Atwood)
Agr. Al.Be.Ro

Reserve Intermediate Champion of The European Open Holstein Show 2015
Gloria 2 (Goldwyn)
Agr. Al.Be.Ro

Hon. Mention Intermediate Champion of The European Open Holstein Show 2015
All. Nure Goldsun Annetta (Goldsun)
Agr. Al.Be.Ro

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Junior Champion of The European Open Holstein Show 2015
Bel Golden dream Ulderica (Golden Dreams)
All. Beltramino, Q. Serrabassa & Soc. Al.Be.Ro

Reserve Junior Champion of The European Open Holstein Show 2015
Bel Bag2 Violetta (Mascalese)
All. Beltramino, Bag 2 & Soc. Al.Be.Ro

Hon. Mention Junior Champion of The European Open Holstein Show 2015
Flora Windbrook Holymorning (Windbrook)
Ganaderia Cantina (Spain)


Class 1: Heifer aged between 6-9 months (12)

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1. Elle Goldwin Mamy (Goldwyn), Ferrarini S.P.A, IT
2. Bel Dreams Vigna (Golden Dreams), Allevamento Beltramino, IT
3. Agrilat Windbrook Chocolat (Windbrook), M.E.DAL Farms, IT
4. Planillo Azure Mila (Windbrook), Ganaderia Planilla, ES
5. Elle Alexander Beatrix (Alexander), Ferrarini S.P.A, IT

Class 2: Heifer between 9-12 months (21)

_LRU6249 low 

1. Bel Bag2 Violetta (Mascalese), Allevamento Beltramino,  & AL.BE.RO, IT
2. Flora Bradnick Edurne (Bradnick), Casa Flora, ES
3. Elle Goldwyn Maya (Goldwyn), Ferrarini, S.P.A, IT
4. All Mulino Airlift Giselle, (Airlift), Soc. Agr. Caravati S.S, IT
5. Elle Goldwyn Melany, (Goldwyn), Ferrarini, S.P.A, IT

Class 3: Heifer aged between 12-15 months (19)

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1. Bel Golden Dream Ulderica (Golden Dreams), Allevamento Beltramino,  & AL.BE.RO, IT & Quim Serrabassa, ES
2. C.M.E Atwood Ginerva (Atwood), Errera Holsteins, IT
3. Tobias Sid Silvy (Sid), Huerta Los Tobias, ES
4. Bel Doorman Upa (Doorman), Allevamento Beltramino,  & AL.BE.RO, IT & Quim Serrabassa, ES
5. Genesis (Absolute Red), Fausto Moschini, IT

Class 4: Heifer aged between 15-18 months (12)

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1. Bel Golden Dreams Umbra (Golden Dreams), Allevamento Beltramino,  IT
2. Modolino Mascalese Jessy (Mascalese), Az. Agr. Antonio Christiano & Roberto Negro
3. M.E.Dal Atwood Essence (Atwood), Errera Holsteins, IT
4. All Cast Windbrook Zoe (Windbrook), Az. Agr. Il Castagno Di Pastore & Cerutti
5. Manolero Windbrook Triana (Windbrook), Ganaderia Manolero, ES

Class 6: Heifer aged 18-22 months (8)

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1. Fuma Lauth Dirty Dancing (Lauthority), Az. Agr Fumagalli, IT
2. Nova Ida (Bageyzou), SCL Novalait Jean-L Michel, FR
3. C.M.E Glauco Elly (Glauco), Errera Holsteins, IT
4. Bel Goldsun Usina (Goldsun), Allevamento Beltramino,  & Alex Gallarde IT
5. Argomota Windbrook Diosa (Windbrook), Casa Patron, ES

Class 6: Heifer aged between 22-26 months (10)

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1. Flora Windbrook Holymorning (Windbrook), Ganaderia Cantina, ES
2. Amighetti Mascalese Ariel (Mascalese), Allevamento Beltramino,  & Bag2, IT
3. Elle Damion Iris (Damion), Ferrarini S.P.A. IT
4. Fuma Braxton Simona (Braxton), Az. Agr Fumagalli SS, IT
5. C.M.E Mascalese Jenny (Mascalese), Errera Holsteins, IT

Class 7: Junior 2 yr Old (10)

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1. All.Nure Stanleycup Didyna (Stanleycup), AL.BE.RO, IT
2. C.M.E Dempsey Gepy (Dempsey), Errera Holsteins, IT
3. A.L.H Berber (Sudan) Fausto Moschini, IT
4. Flora Atwood Adeena (Atwood), Casa Flora, ES & Eclipse Holsteins, AUS
5. Sabbiona Gevas (Lavanguard), AZ.Agr Sabbiona, IT

Class 8: Senior 2 Yr old (10)

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1. (BU) Flora Atwood Mahela (Atwood), Casa Flora, ES
2. M.E.Dal Atwood Isa (Atwood), M.EDAL Farm Ladina, IT
3. Bel Goldsun Triangola (Goldsun), Allevamento Beltramino,  IT
4. Toc-Farm Sid Selina (Sid), Filippo, Ilaria & Attilio Tocchi, IT
5. Bel Artes Titty (Artes), Allevamento Beltramino,  IT

Class 9: Junior 3 yr old (5)

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1. All.Nure Goldsun Annetta (Goldsun), AL.BE.RO, IT
2. (BU) Caserini F Alexander Epica (Alexander), Errera Holsteins
3. Sabbiona Frisia (Atwood), Sabbiona AZ.Agr IT
4. Mondolino Gold Amily (Goldsun), Az Agr  Antonio Christiano & Roberto Negro
5. Ciolifarm Atwood Inksou (Atwood), Az.Agr Volpere of Stefano Cioli

Class 10: Senior 3 Yr Old (10)

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1. (BU) Gerboise (Atwood), AL.BE.RO, IT
2. Gloria (Goldwyn), AL.BE.RO, IT
3. Bel Barclay Selen (Barclay),  Allevamento Beltramino & AL.BE.RO  IT
4. AL.CE Atwood Samuela (Atwood), Soc.Agr. Cerri Pietro Rinaldo & Figli, IT
5. Chizzola Atwood Aloee, (Atwood), Antonio Bollati & Figli Societa Agricola, IT

Class 11: 4 Yr Old (6)

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1. (BU)Pozosaa Goldwyn Sonia (Goldwyn),  Allevamento Beltramino, Bag2, Bach, Sarreri & AL.BE.RO  IT
2. Riozzo Dina (Rustler), Soc. Agr. Riozzo & Andrea Marino,  & Nicola Moretti di Taveggia,
3. Loria (Damion), Jorg Seeger, DE
4. Acqualunga Goldwin Renee (Goldwyn), AL.BE.RO, IT
5. Toc-Farm Amyl G (Goldwyn), Filippo, Ilaria & Attilio Tocchi, IT

Class 12: 5 Yr Old (8)


1. (BU) Jomagro Goldwyn Jasmin (Goldwyn), Errera Holsteins, Agriber & M.E.Dal Farms, IT
2. Sabbiona S Goldwyn Fiaba (Goldwyn), Sabbiona & Agr Barbante Di Cantamessi, IT
3. Bel Goldwyn Dory (Goldwyn) Allevamento Beltramino, IT
4. Planillo Bolton Vialettea (Bolton), Ganaderia Planillo, ES
5. Aff Balsamico Sonelissa (Balsamico), Luca Faccin, Enrico & Gaetano S.S Societa Agricola, (IT)

Class 13: Mature Cow (7)


1. (BU) Diode (Goldwyn), AL.BE.RO, IT
2. Dirigo-Conat Pronto Roxette (Pronto), AL.BE.RO & Agustin Celis Romero, IT
3. M.E.Dal Stormatic Ilma (Stormatic), M.E.Dal Farm, AL.BE.RO, IT
4. Sabbiona Set (Lheros), Sabbiona Az.Agr Di Ireneo & Francesco Ciserani, IT
5. Eurostar T Melanie (Goldwyn), M Ghini , Dr Marsicola & C TRaversi, IT

25 Ways to Score Dairy Love on Valentine’s Day

If you have a dairy farmer in your life, there are 25 ways to irrefutably confirm that Valentine’s Day 2015 has arrived and romance dairy-style is making its presence heartfelt!! He may not have done ALL of these today but you can put a kiss (X) on the heart, if your dairy man has put romance, as described here, into your life.

25 Ways to Score Dairy Love on Valentine’s Day

  1. Valentine’s Day he makes a YOU-turn especially for love. He salutes February romance by bringing his lunch to share with you in the calf barn where you’re re-bedding calf pens. It’s his idea of a “roll in the hay with his little honey”.
  2. The only other women on his mind have four legs and udders. You have the magazines and advertisements and newspapers to prove it. Unfortunately he thinks of them nine days a week.
  3. He’s always inventing more ways to spend quality time together. Recently you have had two-gether time stable cleaning, bagging feed and bookkeeping.
  4. The last handwritten card you received on Valentine’s Day said, “We’re out of colostrum. The feedstore will leave it on the ramp after closing.” Who said your man no longer delivered any good pick-me-ups?
  5. You may be owed it but don’t bank on a dairy farmer producing anything with more poetic rhythm than the seat on the tractor you get to drive to rake hay. Although you would love him to pen “Ode for my wife” you are more likely to receive laundry room “odor for my wife!”
  6. Although you have a romantic vision of total agreement in your partnership, in actual fact, men and women working on dairy farms often disagree. It’s the GMO effect:  Genetically Modified Opposition.
  7. It isn’t that dairy farmers don’t like matchmaking. In fact it’s practically a full-time hobby. Give him a stack of pedigrees and the latest bull proofs and his thoughts, although maybe not focused on love, are definitely focused on finding the perfect mates.
  8. When you occasionally ask why he never says anything romantic to you or about you, his response is, “I am struck dumb by your perfection.” Now that’s a smart dairy farmer.
  9. The last time he presented you with a surprise box on Valentine’s Day, it turned out to be a trip to the granary to see the new litter of kittens that were making their home there. If you were lucky, he also had a second special box … a cardboard one….. so that you could move them somewhere that wouldn’t interfere with your daily chores. Such a thoughtful guy!
  10. Thoughtful and sentimental. Or should that be “scent”imental. Women love it when a man lets his presence be known.  Dairy farmers are great at that. Barn boots across the clean floor, greasy hands on the fresh towels — barny barn smell on the pillow cases.  It may not be better housekeeping but it’s definitely animal husbandry.
  11. Thank goodness most passionate dairy farmers don’t play the field they plough them!
  12. Dairy farmers talk funny – especially when give instructions. You better know where the rock ridge is so that you can bring him a cotter pin when the tractor breaks down north of the dry well by the rail fence on the old Sutter place.
  13. Dairy farmers may not be the brightest valentines in the chocolate box but they are definitely the sharpest ones in the laundry. More times than I can count I have washed pocket knives, burned out light bulbs and udder towels and turned everything the bright red of that new hat that was his “favorite”
  14. It all comes out in the wash… if you’ve ever spent Sunday morning trying to untangle a pair of nylons from 200 yards of binder twine ….you know that isn’t true!
  15. Washing the milk check takes money laundering and strained relationships to a whole new level.
  16. However, on most days, there is no need for a matchmaker in dairy romances. Mother Nature does a wonderful job using storms, drought, wind and rain to keep the relationship from becoming routine or, heaven forbid, predictable.
  17. You both know that your dairy guy thinks it’s a compliment to be asked, “Where you raised in a barn?”
  18. Going “out” is a phrase you have to eliminate from your vocabulary. Out means: the cattle are out; or we’re out of feed;
  19. Some couples share their love by going out to shows. When you share your life with a farmer you have a 24/7 front row seat for the greatest show on earth brought to you by Mother Nature productions.
  20. Dairy sweethearts don’t need Valentine Surprises. The 24/7 of dairy farming has surprises built in. Like the ones that happen when the dairy man who has the key to your heart also leaves every door he passes through open:  house, barn, calf pens.
  21. Dairy love is always ready to cut to the chase. ‘Cattle are out’.
  22. On the other hand, nothing says love like duct tape and binder twine. You may prefer the ribbons and lace of Valentine’s Day, but duct tape and twine get the job done until the perfect fix is available. It’s quick. It’s easy.  Two can do it!!
  23. So don’t expect a dairy farmer to get a fresh haircut for Valentine’s date. Keeping his shaggy locks is a sign of unconditional love. This romantic is not going to do anything that would make him attractive to somebody else.
  24. If you’re still longing for a special treat for Valentine’s Day, sit hubby down and explain your vision for redoing the farmhouse in country modern style. When he looks up, obviously confused, ask, “What do you think?”  Nine times out of ten he will answer, “Sounds great to me”. When he comes in from the barn next week he will have no choice but to love the brand new living room furniture.
  25. This man can fix anything that’s broken but with dairy luck on your side he will never break your heart

The Bullvine Bottom Line

So looking back over our checklist, how does your Dairy Valentine’s Day lover rate? If you checked more than three of these boxes with a smile on your face, the truth is obvious.  You’re in love with a dairy farmer.  You need to repeat this phrase often “I’ve fallen for a dairy farmer and I can’t give him up!!” So to all my peers who also love dairy guys, Happy Valentine’s Day Ladies from the Broadside of the Bullvine!! (Read more: 8 OF THE GREATEST DAIRY LOVE STORIES IN THE WORLDTHE DOS AND DON’TS OF DATING A FARMERTHE MOST IMPORTANT PARTNERSHIP IN THE WORLD)


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Video: Robot/Feeding Signals – Canadian Dairy Xpo 2015

Dr. Joep Driessen, founder of CowSignals, speaking on Robot/Feeding Signals. From the Canadian Dairy Xpo, Joep Driessen explains how body language can tell you about a cow’s health and well-being.

“If you’re running 43km in one run, that’s the same amount of energy that a cow needs to produce 30L of milk. So what’s the difference between a cow and a marathon runner? Well, the cow is running that marathon every single day.”

That’s why it’s important to be able to assess their comfort through body language, says the Luxembourg-born veterinarian and founder of CowSignals. And, improving producers’ knowledge of body language is just what the many books and videos CowSignals distributes aims to do.

In this video Joep leads discussion on Robot/Feeding Signals at the 2015 Canadian Dairy Xpo. Joep is passionate about improving the herd’s life in order to improve farmer prosperity. CowSignals is an internationally recognized package of knowledge, tried and tested lectures and practical training course. Joep has worked on several projects in the past including: disease prevention, pharmaceutical research and cow fertility.

Sponsored by Agribrands Purina and presented by Canadian Dairy Xpo and The Bullvine TV.


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Kelloe Mains – Good heifer rearing leads to strong milking performance

The McDonald family recently invested in a new housing facility for an additional 330 cows at Kelloe Mains Farm, near Berwick-upon-Tweed.  Bruce Jobson reports from the Scottish Borders.

The McDonald family milk 720 Holstein cows at Kelloe Mains Farm, Duns, Scotland, 10 miles west of Berwick-upon-Tweed. The farmland totals 2,500 acres (1,000ha) stretching over a distance of 10 miles and incorporates two farms.

Robert McDonald and his son, also named Robert, are the driving force behind the family farming business with 27-year old Robert, managing the day to day management of the dairy herd. His father continues his role at the forefront of the business and also manages the arable side of the enterprise.

Kelloe Mains has undergone a continued expansion programme and recently added a new 330 high-spec free-stall housing facility, which was completed in January 2014. The housing unit cost approximately £2,500 per cow ($c4300)  (£825,000 in total: $c 1,450,000) and includes automatic scrapers and rubber matting as well as incorporating “green bedding.”

The building is high, with lots of light and ventilation and cow comfort has been a strong feature of the design according to Robert Jnr. “Animal health and welfare is a priority at Kelloe Mains and we continue to focus on management and cow comfort.

“We are currently milking over 700 cows and place strong emphasis on best management practise from the day a calf is born, through to milking. We have incorporated the Alta Advantage Programme into our management structure and this provides essential data and benchmarking of the business,” he said.

An new housing unit for an additional 330 cows cost approximately £2,500 per cow ($c4300)  (£825,000 in total: $c 1,450,000)

An new housing unit for an additional 330 cows cost approximately £2,500 per cow ($c4300) (£825,000 in total: $c 1,450,000)

Imports from Holland

The McDonalds increased their herd numbers in 2014 by purchasing 138 in-milk heifers and 140 in-calf heifers from Holland. The imported animals have now settled into their new environment and Robert is pleased with their performance.

Robert said. “The herd has been averaging around 10,500 – 10,700 litres at 3.8% fat and 3.3% protein, however, with the additional influx, the herd currently containing 65% heifers, and this year, we expect the yield average will be lower.

“It takes time for new animals to adjust but overall, we are pleased with the performance of the herd. We use the Alta Advantage programme as part of our overall herd management system in order to benchmark our performance data. The herd is running at 23% pregnancy rate with 45% of the cows currently pregnant at 75 days.

“Calving interval, which is based on the milking cows, rather than the latest influx, is around the 377 days with days open at 99 days. The herd is averaging 24 months at age of first-calving and in due course, we are aiming to reduce the figure to 23 months. The cows are milked through a 40-point Alfa-Laval rotary parlour on a three times per-day milking routine, averaging 34litres per day with a through-put of 125 cows-per-hour.”

The herd is fed a TMR ration using a Keenan mixer-wagon, with a separate ration to the in-calf heifers and dry cows. The milking herd ration contains 20kg of DM of forage; 2kg of whole crop; 6.5kgs grass silage, 0.5kg straw and a protein blend. The herd receives its first feed at 5.30am and is supplemented at around 10am.

Dry cows receive a close-up and far-off ration and bedding is kept clean and dry due to the availability of straw. The new 340 cow free-stall facility and older unit for 368 cows, link into a 1.9million gallon slurry tower and 2.8million lagoon incorporating an umbilical system.


Kelloe Mains Open Day

Alta Genetics recently hosted an open day at Kelloe Mains, and the event included presentations from several Alta staff as well as Robert McDonald Jnr. Over 200 visitors attended the event including 60 farmers from Holland and 16 from Italy.

Farmers seeking to breed the next generation of profitable, animal welfare friendly cattle were treated to a demonstration line-up of milking Holstein heifers using the Alta Advantage programme. Visitors could inspect the animals and were provided with milk recording details and yield projections.

Alta programme manager Drew Wilson used hand held technology to assess the type characteristics of an animal and the programme provides a list of suitable matings; based upon the type and production criteria for each individual herd requirement. The line-up of animals on display demonstrated the success of the Alta Advantage Programme Mr Wilson stated.

Mutual Benefits

Paul De Goojier, global marketing manager for Alta Genetics, led a group of 60 plus farmers from The Netherlands, as part of a UK tour and emphasised an open business philosophy. He explained: “Farmers are looking for ways to improve and learn from each other. The openday will bring value to UK farmers, the Dutch as well as Italian group, who have also attended the event.

“Everyone can discuss their needs on a full strategy basis and breeders are able to apply the genetic tools in order to select the right bulls. We have a focus on the progressive farmer in order to help with the direction of their business goals. Our programmes add value and help bring better results, breed better animals and increase genetic results,” he concluded.

Calf Rearing Trial

Calf rearing is an essential part of the Kelloe Mains philosophy based upon management and animal health and welfare aspects. New born calves are given four litres of colostrum within the first few hours of birth, followed by an additional two litres, two hours after the initial feed. After the first week, the calves receive 5 litres per day increasing to 6 litres per day after the 10th day.

Robert Jnr commented that milking cow performance starts with good heifer rearing practise. He said: “Calves can be easily overlooked but good milking herd performance and animal health and welfare issues start with quality calf management.

“We aim to wean calves at 60 days and by that time, they are receiving adlib feeding, taking onboard approximately 3kgs of 18% protein pellet and straw. Pellet feed and fresh water is introduced early in order to increase growth rates. We aim for heifers to calve-down at 24 months of age and we manage their inputs accordingly in order to achieve the required weight and growth-rates, prior to insemination.”

The farm operates a strict system with one person feeding the calves 12 out of every 14 days in order to maintain consistency of feeding, hygiene, observation and overall management. The calves are fed on waste milk, which is pasteurised on-farm after each milking, and calves are fed at 8 hourly intervals.

Kelloe Mains has traditionally reared calves in crates and the McDonald family recently purchased calf hutches as an alternative method. Calves are currently undergoing a trial to see if there are any benefits by switching to 100% rearing in calf hutches. Both sets of heifers are being weighed at 60 days, and the early results indicate a 10 – 11kg increase in weight using a calf-hutch.

Robert McDonald (left) and Alta Genetics' Regional Manager Billy Campbell

Robert McDonald (left) and Alta Genetics’ Regional Manager Billy Campbell

Kelloe Mains is now using 100% genomic sires across the board according to Alta Genetics Regional Manager Billy Campbell, who has worked closely with the McDonalds for the past 25 years. “Kelloe Mains operates on a commercial-basis and animals are mated to provide profitable, long-lasting, healthy and animal welfare friendly cattle.

“The first group of genomic heifers demonstrated the reliability of the programme and the latest group of 18 heifers by 10 young genomic bulls is averaging 34 litres per day and are currently 118 days in-milk. The group is predicted to yield over 11,500kgs with two heifers projected to produce over 14,000kgs.”

All the cows are bred to Holstein bulls and in the past; sexed-semen has been used to help increase replacement heifer numbers. According to Mr Campbell, the Kelloe Mains herd demonstrates the benefits of using a large number of genomic young sires across the herd and by using a professional evaluator, has achieved positive results on type, production, herd health and animal welfare.

This article first appear in the December 2014-February 2015 Edition of Crazy Cow in Print.  Click here to check out there Facebook group and watch for their new website soon.

The 2014 Breeder’s Choice Awards – The Tanbark Trail Edition – Results

The Breeder’s Choice awards give you, the breeder, the chance to help determine which are the greatest show cattle in the world.  The competition continues to grow. This year over 3,000 breeders cast their votes for their favorites. With many great cattle not attending World Dairy Expo and The Royal this year, more classes than ever were separated by only a few votes. (Read more: 2014 World Dairy Expo Holstein Show Results, 2015 Royal Winter Fair Holstein Show Results)

Spring Heifer Calf

Breeders Choice 2014 -  Claircrest Fever Tiki-winner

2014 Breeders Choice Award - Spring Heifer Calf

After winning both the Royal and Expo, it’s no surprise that Claircrest Fever Tiki takes home the Breeder’s Choice award.  What does come as a surprise is that 3rd place from Expo, Butlerview Doorman Class, placed ahead of the 2nd place from the Royal, Petitclerc Atwood Atlas.

Winter Heifer Calf

Breeders Choice 2014 -  Belfast Doorman Lovestruck

2014 Breeders Choice Award - Winter Heifer Calf

Despite not showing at Expo, Royal winner, Belfast Doorman Lovestruck, was able to dominate this class with 25% more of the votes than the Expo winner, Ms Duckett Dymnt Carissa-ET.  Jumping up to the 3rd place in this tight class was Expo 5th place and 1st at the international Junior Show, Butlerview Door Camilla.

Fall Heifer Calf

Breeders Choice 2014 - Stranshome Gold Annice

2014 Breeders Choice Award - Fall Heifer Calf

Winning both at Expo and The Royal, Stranshome Gold Annice-ET easily takes home the Breeder’s Choice Award.  She is followed comfortably by Royal 2nd place, Lingle Goldchip Feline and then Ms Ellee Armani Elysia-ET who was 2nd at Expo and 3rd at the Royal.

Summer Yearling

Breeders Choice 2014 - Solid-Gold De Gsun Disco

2014 Breeders Choice Award - Summer Yearling

Solid-Gold De Gsun Disco, continued her magical dance after winning both Expo and the Royal. She handily took home the 2014 Breeder’s Choice Award.  Disco was followed by Calbrett McCutchen Lila, who earned many fans after her 2nd place finish at The Royal.  Rounding out the top three was Comestar Hodree Goldwyn-ET, who finished 2nd at Expo and 3rd at The Royal.

Spring Yearling Heifer

Breeders Choice 2014 - Jacobs Goldwyn Aliza

2014 Breeders Choice Award - Spring Yearling Heifer

Gaining a lot of momentum after her 3rd place finish at Expo, Jacobs Goldwyn Aliza, went on to win the Royal and now the Breeder’s Choice award for 2014.  Placing second was Expo winner, Ashview-TG Atwood Lilly-ET, followed by Budjon-JK Advn Awakening-ET who finished 2nd at both Expo and The Royal.

Winter Yearling Heifer

Breeders Choice 2014 - Savage-Leigh Alex Lacey

2014 Breeders Choice Award - Winter Yearling Heifer

While Devans Remark Dempsey stepped up from her 3rd place finish at Expo to win The Royal, it was not enough to dethrone Expo winner Savage-Leigh Alex Lacey-ET for the 2014 Breeder’s Choice award. The two were separated by less than 0.01% of the votes.  Following in third   was Jacobs Alexander Eddy who finished 5th at Expo and 6th at The Royal.

Fall Yearling Heifer

Breeders Choice 2014 - Comestar Larion Goldwyn

2014 Breeders Choice Award - Fall Yearling Heifer

Rounding out her dominating wins at Expo and The Royal, Comestar Larion Goldwyn-ET, is the 2014 Breeder’s Choice Award winner. Following her, as she did at Expo, is Eastside Brady Caramel. Slipping into the third position is the winner from Le Supreme Latier, Comestar Larianne Goldwyn, who was 4th at Expo and The Royal. (See more at  Supreme Dairy Show – Suprême laitier – Red & White Show Results 2014).


Yearling Heifer in Milk

Breeders Choice 2014 -- Petitclerc Gold Saltalamacchia

2014 Breeders Choice Award - Yearling Heifer in Milk

Despite not being shown at World Dairy Expo and the Royal, Petitclerc Gold Saltalamacchia takes home the 2014 Breeder’s Choice award very handily.  Finishing in second is Expo winner Siemers Gsun Haya-Dream-ET then Bernadale Goldwyn Ability who finished 2nd at the Royal and 4th at Expo.

Junior 2 Year Old Cow

Breeders Choice 2014 -- Bosdale Gold Lustre

2014 Breeders Choice Award - Junior 2 Year Old Cow

Bosdale Gold Lustre dominated at the Royal and she does so in this class as well, taking home the Breeder’s Choice award in convincing style. Expo Champion Ryan-Vu Sid Molly finishes in a solid second place followed by Jacobs Sid Glory who was 2nd at the Royal and 9th at World Dairy Expo.

Senior 2 Year Old Cow

Breeders Choice 2014 --Arethusa Fever Almira

2014 Breeders Choice Award - Senior 2 Year Old Cow

Talk about an extremely close class.   The top 3 senior two year olds were separated by less than 6% of the popular vote.  In a reversal of the earlier trend, where the Royal Winners were defeating the Expo winners, Expo winner, Arethusa Fever Almira-ET takes home the 2014 Breeder’s Choice award over Lottos Atwood Lizette, who was 2nd at Expo and winner at The Royal.  Rounding out the top three in this close class was Quebec winner, and 2nd at The Royal, Petitclerc Goldwyn Anouk.

Junior 3 Year Old Cow

Breeders Choice 2014 - Jacobs Atwood Vedette

2014 Breeders Choice Award - Junior 3 Year Old Cow

After winning both Expo and The Royal, one of only 3 milking cows to do so, Jacobs Atwood Vedette takes home the 2014 Breeder’s Choice Award in convincing style.  Following her, as she did at Expo, is BVK Atwood Abbie-ET.  Windy-Knoll-View Parfait the 3rd place from Expo finishes third.

Senior 3 Year Old Cow

Breeders Choice 2014 -Charwill Attic Marcy

2014 Breeders Choice Award - Senior 3 Year Old Cow

Charwill Attic Marcy, got all she could handle at the Royal, where the Expo Champion was defeated by Brookvilla Goldwyn Brooks, who was in prime form.  This led to one of the closest classes of the day, with less than 2% difference between these two great cows.  Ultimately it was Marcy that came out on top, with the Grand Champion from the International Red & White Show, Strans-Jen-D Tequila-Red finishing third as she was  at  the open Holstein show at The Royal. (See more at International Red & White Show – World Dairy Expo 2014)

4 Year Old Cow

Breeders Choice 2014 - Butz-Butler Gold Barbara

2014 Breeders Choice Award - 4 Year Old Cow

Despite not making it to the Royal, Expo winner, Butz-Butler Gold Barbara, rode her extreme popularity to take home the 2014 Breeder’s Choice Award over now herd mate Cache-Valley Lheros 2331-ET, the Royal winner who was also 2nd at Expo.  Moving up over 3rd place finisher Ms Atwood Madison at Expo and the 2md at the Royal, to take home third in the Breeder’s Choice is 3rd place Royal finisher Kingsway Sanchez Arangatang

5 Year Old Cow

Breeders Choice 2014 - Lovhill Goldwyn Katrysha

2014 Breeders Choice Award - 5 Year Old Cow

Despite winning both Expo and the Royal, Lovhill Goldwyn Katrysha found herself in a tight battle with 2nd place finisher at both shows – Jacobs Goldwyn Valana.  Ultimately it was a surge at the end that earned Katrysha the 2014 Breeder’s Choice Award. Finishing third is 2013 Royal Grand Champion, and 2014 NY International Spring Show Winner, Robrook Goldwyn Cameron.

Mature Cow

Breeders Choice 2014 - Six-Year-Old & Older Cow

2014 Breeders Choice Award - Mature Cow

As she did all year, RF Goldwyn Hailey dominated this class.  With over 43% more votes that the next closest competitor, Royal Lifetime Production Loyalyn Goldwyn June, Hailey has certainly staked her claim as one of the greatest of all time.  Rounding out the top three is Expo production class winner, Ms Dundee Belinda.

International Cow

Breeders Choice 2014 - Cityview Goldwyn Adeena 1

2014 Breeders Choice Award - International Cow

In the closest overall class of the day, with less than 9% of the votes separating the top 6 animals Italian Champion Cityview Goldwyn Adeena 1 takes home the victory over Spanish Champion Ptit Coeur Affirmed Medecina.  UK Champion Bilsrow Gibson Ada, squeaks out a third place victory over Australian Champion Fairvale Morty Lady 51.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

With so many of the Royal and Expo champions not going head to head, the votes were extremely close.  Those animals that were able to have success at both shows were certainly rewarded. Ultimately for those classes where the Expo and Royal winners did not go head to head, the only way to decide the true victor is with the 2014 Breeder’s Choice Awards.  Congratulations to All!


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Video: Pedigree Producer Panel from Canadian Dairy Xpo

Five of the top pedigree breeders from across Canada and multiple breeds share their thoughts on genetics, embryo transfer, marketing and Immunity+.  Sponsored by Shur-Gain this event was held on Wednesday February 4th at the Canadian Dairy Xpo.

The speakers are:

  • Marc Comtois – Comestar Holsteins, Victoriaville, QC
    Comestar Holstein’s is a family farm located at Victoriaville, Quebec. Known around the world for developing high quality genetics, they have established a strong international market. The herd is approximately 700 head and the base of the herd stems from the GREAT Comestar Laurie Sheik VG-88 23* Family. Marc is bilingual and is well known and respected around the world. The Comestar herd is known for their show winning ladies, but the herd is built on more than just show winners!
  • Glenn Barkey – Altona Lea Holsteins, Blackstock, ON
    Glenn is part of the Leading Livestock Genetics group that was formed to help farmers market animals and embryos. Leading Livestock Genetics (LLG), an alliance of dairy cow and dairy goat breeders are located in the East-Central region of Ontario, Canada. Altona Lea Farms is a two-time Master Breeder herd, multigenerational, family owned and run farm.
  • Jen Vander Meulen – Avonlea Genetics, Brighton, ON
    Jen and her husband Andrew have a deep history in the Jersey breed and are noted as one of the top of the breed in marketing. Avonlea Genetics Inc. is a third generation purebred Jersey farm with many accolades, including: 2 National Grand Champions and Lifetime Production Awards. In recent years an emphasis has been placed on their embryo program.
  • John Crowley – Crovalley Holsteins, Hastings, ON
    John Crowley and wife Cynthia have four children, Christina, Justin, Ryan and Vanessa. They farm Crovalley Holsteins, consisting of 1400 acres with their sons, Justin and Ryan. The herd consists of 80 milking cows, with a total of 250 head. Herd Classification is 42Excellent, 62 Very Good, 5 Good Plus. Crovalley has been named numerous All-Canadian and All-American nominations from a showtype herd.
  • Curtis McNeil – Heather Holme Holsteins, Goderich, ON
    Curtis McNeil is a shareholder with his parents Glen and Vanda McNeil in Heather Holme Holsteins. Heather Holme Holsteins is a 3x Master Breeder, entirely homebred and the 1st CHAH Leucosis free herd in Canada. With the slogan “Breeding the kind dairyman like to milk worldwide” they focus on producing high quality milk as well as breeding and marketing elite Holstein genetics. The current herd classification of 18 EX (2 @ 94) 33 VG, 3 GP, 94% VG or EX. The Herd average is 12,250 Kgs (2x/day) 4.4% fat, 3.4% protein, BCA 260 298 273 . They have bred numerous All-Canadian & All-Canadian nominations over the years and merchandize 60-80 embryos annually, domestically.

Genetic Progress: You’re Making it, but at What Rate?

These days, if you use AI sires as opposed to natural service, it’s practically impossible not to make genetic progress. The bulls offered by AI companies are of such caliber that for the most part, genetic progress heads in one direction – upwards! However, the rate at which a herd makes progress is highly variable.

To reveal the different rates at which herds are making genetic progress, CDN examined a dataset including cows with an official LPI that were born in either 2001, 2006 or 2011. Using these birth years gave the opportunity to analyze the rate of genetic progress in each herd across five and ten year periods. Herds included in the analysis were restricted to those that had at least 10 cows with an official LPI in each of the three birth years. In total, the analysis involved approximately 193,700 cows from nearly 2,500 herds across Canada. The Fast, the Average and the Slow Progressers Herds were grouped into ten groups (i.e.: deciles) based on the annual rate of genetic progress achieved for LPI over the five year period based on cows born in 2011 versus 2006. Annual rates of genetic progress were graphed for this five year period, as well as for the ten year period (i.e.: cows born in 2011 versus 2001), as shown in Figure 1. The average herd has experienced a faster rate of genetic gain over the most recent five year period compared to the ten year period. This is surely, due to genomics to some degree, which has increased the rate of genetic progress in the breed. During the ten year period, the top 10% of herds made around 20 points more progress per year than average herds. During the five year period this doubled, with the herds in the top 10% making 40 LPI points more progress per year compared to herds with the average rate of LPI progress.
Figure 1 Annual Rate of Progress for LPI

Female genomic testing was used twice as much in herds in the top 10% compared to in average herds (12% versus 6%). It’s likely that owners of the top herds genomic tested more animals because they realize the importance of genetic selection and may be involved with marketing genetics. Nonetheless, female genomic testing is a tool used to accelerate genetic progress, and increased uptake by herds in the top 10% speaks to the willingness of these herd owners to seek out and utilize such tools to their advantage.

Figure 2 groups herds the same way as Figure 1, but shows progress for EBV Milk over five and ten year periods. Once again, it is clear that there are certain herds making much faster genetic progress for this trait, and that the annual progress achieved in these herds in the most recent five year period far exceeds that achieved over the ten year period. Also noteworthy is the fact that in both Figures 1 and 2, herds in the bottom deciles made more progress per year for LPI and EBV Milk over the ten year period than the five year period, meaning that the annual rate of progress has been slowing down so these herds are falling more and more behind.
Figure 2 Annual Rate of Progress for EBV Milk for Herds Grouped by LPI Decile

Annual Progress for Key Traits Table 1 shows the annual genetic gain for key traits in an average herd, as well as the average progress per year experienced by herds in the top and bottom 10%. Only LPI and its three components as well as production yields and Conformation are included since rates of genetic progress for functional traits are quite slow in most herds with little difference across herds.
Table 1 Annual Genetic Gain in the Last Five Years

The average herd makes approximately 70 LPI points of progress per year while a herd in the top 10% or bottom 10% would make approximately 40 points more or 40 points less gain per year, respectively. By looking at the LPI components, it is clear that most of the annual rate of gain in LPI comes from progress for Production and Durability. For the Health and Fertility, however, the average herd in Canada has virtually made no genetic progress for this component while the best herds have achieved an average gain of one point per year during the past five years. The poorest herds for rate of progress for LPI actually lost ground for Health and Fertility at an average rate of nearly two points per year.

Genetic progress for production traits is variable from herd to herd, with the average herd gaining 77 kg EBV Milk per year while the top 10% of herds for LPI gain achieve EBV Milk gains of nearly 140 kg EBV Milk. Progress for herds in the bottom 10% is only 19 kg EBV Milk, annually. These extreme genetic differences surely translate into considerable production differences among herds, which translates to poorer profitability.

In terms of Conformation, the average herd makes 0.8 EBV points of progress annually. Interestingly, even herds in the bottom 10% for LPI gain make 0.6 EBV points of progress for Conformation each year. This shows that significant progress is made for Conformation, even if progress for LPI is minimal.   Summary Your herd is almost certainly making genetic progress but there are real and significant differences among herds in the rate at which genetic progress is occurring. Thanks to genomics, genetic progress has sped up in most herds in the past five years, which has contributed to the fact that annual rates of gain have been faster in the most recent five years compared to earlier years. While the average herd has made more progress over the past five years, it is herds in the top 10% that are achieving gains at a much faster rate than others. Herds in the top 10% for LPI gains are likely utilizing all tools available to them to maximize genetic progress, keeping them far ahead of the pack in terms of annual genetic gain.

Mobility – The Achilles Heel of Every Breeding Program

Cows that inherently move about in their environment with ease and comfort are what every breeder wants to have in their herd. They produce more milk, require less labor, are usually more reproductively sound and, ultimately, they make more profit in their lifetime. Lame cows are significant profit eaters and, as animal welfare becomes more and more important to our industry, lameness could become our Achilles Heel.

Genetics and Lameness

So what does genetics have to do with lameness? To date our phenotypic evaluations of feet and legs have yield heritabilities of 5% to 10%, so we have essentially said why bother breeding for improvement in mobility? Instead we choose to address it through feed and management and cull the problems from the herd. Well that approach is not resulting in a reduction in lameness.  So let’s address the elephant in the room. Why are we not breeding for improved mobility in dairy cattle?

Other New End Result Indexes

In the past few months new outcome based indexes have been declared official and are now being used for fertility (Holstein USA’s Fertility Index), for immunity (CDN’s Mastitis Resistance Index) and for herds that depend on grazing ( CDCB’s Grazing Merit Dollars). As well, both TPI and NM$ had their formulas adjusted or expanded in December 2014. However the very important area of cow mobility does not even appear to be on the radar screen, when it comes to providing breeders with animal ratings for locomotion. Is mobility too big or too complex for our researchers, genetic evaluation experts, breeders and A.I. to tackle?

Evaluating Mobility

For seventy years we have had the Dairy Cow Scorecard which describes the ideal feet and legs and how they are to function. We also have very good type classification programs that analyse the form of feet and legs. But they do not capture data on how the feet and legs function. And yes it would take time and effort for classifiers to see all cows walk. But, if it was a requirement, would it not give the classifier the opportunity to more accurately assess this important area of a cow’s conformation? One significant factor that adds bias to the classification of feet and legs is that herds often have the hoof trimmer visit and trim all animals before the classifier visits. Can we expect that the heritability estimates for feet and leg traits will ever be above the current low values? Not likely.

Very few cows relative to the size of the recorded national herd get to dairy shows. Those that do get to shows seldom have major mobility problems and therefore judges infrequently make negative comments on a cow’s mobility. As well few elite gTPI, NM$, PTAT or gLPI dams, the mothers of the very top young bulls or heifers, are taken to shows, so show ring feet and leg evaluations are not a solution when it comes to improving animal mobility.

I have heard some people suggest that all heifers 6 to 15 months of age should be evaluated for their mobility. Perhaps that could be a more accurate assessment of how an animal naturally walks and it would replace the need to have every cow that is classified observed on the walk by the classifier. However that would require that the type classification program be expanded to include heifers. Who would benefit and who would pay for that expanded service?

Locomotion Scoring

Often veterinarians, feed advisors, consultants and herd managers evaluate a portion of a herd rating the cows for the locomotion from normal to severely lame. (  However that information is usually for only a portion of the herd and is not linked to classifier evaluations for feet and legs.

Hoof trimmers could also analyse cows for mobility before they trim their feet but there again how would that information be captured and who would pay for it? Linking the results for a herd would also be a problem because only a portion of the herd is trimmed on any visit and what about the cows that are not trimmed?

What could a Mobility Index Look Like?

The Bullvine has not done an extensive study on what a mobility index might look like but from our experience as classifier, judges, researcher and breeders we offer the following suggested content and weightings:

Mobility Index = 50% (Walking Evaluation) + 20% (Rear Legs Rear View) + 15% (Feet and Pasterns) + 5% (Rear Legs Side View) + 5% (Thurls / Pins – location and width) + 5% (Chronic Conditions –i.e. crampiness)

Additional traits may also have an influence on mobility. However for brevity we have limited the traits included.

What Needs To Be Done?

Studying mobility is a big task. Likely requiring the evaluation of many many more animals than the current coordinated international multi research herd study underway. That study is for relating feed intake, production and genomic profiles to give animal ratings for feed efficiency. Also a lowly heritable but important trait. Both Holstein USA and Holstein Canada have conducted pilot studies on how to capture cow locomotion. But as yet they have not been able to find a way to expand the classification of feet and legs to include locomotion. However they should be congratulated for attempting to find solutions.

The truth is that this challenge is too large for any single organization to undertake and it is not limited to a single breed. At this point what is needed is a champion to bring all the stakeholders together to consider how to proceed.  As has been the case for every other trait, determining genetic indexes requires phenotypic observations, genomic profiles, data analysis, extensive funding and likely new ways of evaluating body parts.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Until breeders have a mobility index they will not be in an improved position to breed cows that move with ease and comfort in their environment. Limited mobility, limited production, limited reproduction, reduced profit, all contributing to the challenge of future industry viability and sustainability. It requires a collective stakeholder effort. The challenge is a big one but it is not impossible. Our industry needs to address the elephant in the room and not continue to remain silent on finding ways to improve cow mobility.


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